Engineering students develop app with Mercer Police safety resources

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Four people stand together for a photo, with their poster in the background.
From left, Jesse Sowell, Mercer systems manager and one of the technical advisers for the MU Safe project; Taiyah Lockett; Corbin Jones; and Jacob Just-Buddy presented their project at Mercer's BEAR Fair. Photo courtesy Taiyah Lockett

Mercer University campus safety resources are just a finger tap away with a new app. Developed for a senior engineering design project, MU Safe connects users with Mercer Police Department services. 

Taiyah Lockett came up with the idea for the app and created it with Jacob Just-Buddy and Corbin Jones. All three have since graduated with the Class of 2023 from the School of Engineering’s computer engineering bachelor’s degree program, and Jones is working toward his master’s degree this year. 

They confirmed a need for an app through a survey of Mercer students, analyzed different types of apps to find the best format, and consulted with Mercer Police before beginning their programming work in the spring, said Dr. Donald Ekong, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

The icon for the MU Safe app. Photo courtesy Taiyah Lockett

Dr. Ekong put the finishing touches on the app in June and published it in July. It is available for free download on Android and Apple devices. It can also be found through the official Mercer University mobile app under “Crisis Support Resources.” 

“I love it. It’s super easy to use. It contacts us directly,” said Leigh Sloan, Mercer Police executive assistant. “Everybody has a smartphone. Sometimes it’s easier to use an app than to find a phone number.”

MU Safe includes options to call Mercer Police; report incidents; get directions to Mercer Police stations; and find emergency call boxes on the Macon, Law School and Atlanta campuses. 

“We had noticed that students don’t really know where the (emergency call boxes) are. This tells you where the nearest one is,” Lockett said. 

Another feature called “Safe Journey” helps students be proactive if they are feeling uneasy on campus. They hold down a button on their phone’s screen, and if they take their finger off it for more than 30 seconds, another button box pops up to call Mercer Police.

“The whole point is to help things feel safer on campus, and I really hope the app is something that gets continually used,” Lockett said. “One of the things that I think will help people keep using it is routine maintenance. It’s a really good app. Our team worked really hard on it. I like that it’s for Mercer students and by Mercer students.” 

Lockett said she has spoken to Dr. Ekong about ideas for the app for the future, and she hopes another student team will continue to develop and expand it. 

“It’s a good app to have on your phone because you never know when you may need to contact MerPo,” Dr. Ekong said.

Sloan said officers can escort students across campus or be on the phone with them while they walk. They can also assist with basic car problems, in addition to many other issues. All students have to do is communicate with Mercer Police, and the app is a simple way to do that.

“We want everybody to feel safe,” Sloan said. “You have to help us out because we can’t be everywhere at all times. If you see something, say something. If you feel you need something, we’re here.”

 

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